On the once and future history of clouds

James Bridle (previously) honors the The Cloud Index, "a tool for actionable weather forecasts" at London's Serpentine Gallery, with a lyrical longread about the history of clouds, science, war and computation.

To live in the world today is to live under, and within, a cloud. The planetary scale of the climate has finally been replicated in the planetary scale of our information systems, which encircle the globe. Both of these systems are, quite literally, out of control.

In the case of the weather, anthropogenic climate change is now irreversible, and is driving increasingly violent change, both within geophysical processes, and within societies. Climate-driven wars and mass migrations are already a reality, as are effects which can be experienced more immediately, such as increased turbulence in the atmosphere.

And yet, despite the direst warnings and desperate urgings of scientists, we seem unable to respond to this crisis. Writing in the New York Times, the founder of the Global Weather Corporation, a corporation using advanced data processing to improve weather prediction, forecasts "A New Dark Age", in which the exponential disruptions produced by climate change drastically reduce our ability to predict the future. We will lack the tools and the understanding to deal with emergent, chaotic conditions, and the times we live in will be considered the point at which we passed through "peak knowledge" about the planet we live on. In response, the author proposes massive technological investment in weather monitoring and prediction: more data, more processing, more computational knowledge of the world.

Cloud Thinking
[James Bridle/Medium]

(Image: Cumulusmediocrissweden, Kr-val, PD)